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Step by step, race by race: Manitowoc's inspirational athlete has overcome hardship to chase dreams

Posted at 5:20 PM, Dec 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-22 18:26:46-05
  • Carla Simon was born with autism and dealt with epilepsy as a child. She began to run a few years ago and she says that since then, the seizures stopped.
  • Carla has completed many marathons, half-marathons and triatlons including and Ironman and the Boston Marathon. She moved to Manitowoc a year and a half ago.
  • Her running partner, Melissa Sheldon, calls Carla an inspiration. She says that everyone should learn from Carla's determination and drive.

Competitions like the Ironman or a marathon may seem daunting, but one woman in our community is no stranger to tough challenges and has become an inspiration.
That woman is Carla Simon. Carla has autism and dealt with epilepsy as a child.

"There was a lot of times in my life where I felt down and unsure what I would be able to do,” Simon said. “Seizures tired me out so much it was hard to do daily tasks even."

But then Carla found running.

"It makes me feel positive about myself and more confident."

Confident she should be. After taking a love to running, Carla says the seizures stopped and healing began.

"I ran in the Boston Marathon in 2021,” Carla said.

Carla has run all across the county and in November finished her first Ironman. She says she is the fourth person with autism to ever finish the race.

"It's helped me focus a lot more, racing,” she said. “It's helped me meet a lot more people socially. Connect with a lot more people, I never thought I would connect with."

Carla moved to Manitowoc nearly a year and a half ago. In her time here, she has inspired co-workers, neighbors and friends, but maybe none more than her running guide and training partner Melissa Sheldon.

"I mean, most people can't dream of running a marathon and she does it with autism and does very well,” Sheldon said.

As we walked on a trail where the two go on runs, Melissa told me what makes Carla so inspiring.

"That sense of determination. That never give up,” Melissa said. “That you can do it, you can overcome obstacles."

A drive to run that will not stop for Carla as she continues on her journey.

"You know, it's never too late to overcome things. I mean, progress is progress, slow steps,” said Carla. “Nothing will happen right away for you. It takes time."

Carla is planning on competing in a number of upcoming races, including a half marathon in Milwaukee, before running in the Boston Marathon once again in April.